Apple’s iPad launches in USA / A revolution for content delivery

As Apple’s latest gadget goes on sale in the US, our correspondent tests it over a week. The verdict? A sensory delight that is hard to put down

The Times’ Xeni Jardin reports. Read the full article here.

When the iPad launches in the UK this month, in both wi-fi-only and 3G versions, many will echo that familiar refrain heard each time Apple introduces a new product: should I buy the first generation, or wait for round two or three?

The short answer is that no one really needs an iPad. But there’s an awfully good reason to want one. And the first generation of this particular Apple product exceeds expectations to the point where many people will want to take the gamble.

Since acquiring an iPad for review purposes about a week ago, the device has seldom left my hands. And that tactile, hands-on experience is what sets the iPad apart from other devices, even smartphones with touch-sensitive screens. The device really does open up a new kind of user experience greater than the sum of its parts suggests.

As one techie friend put it, “post-iPad” we’re going to look back at the experience of mice and keyboards and those atrocious little laptop nipples, and using them will feel like gardening with chopsticks while wearing mittens…

A handful of pre-release applications, developed specifically for iPad, were provided to early reviewers. They include a free Marvel Comics app offering an iTunes-like store where you can purchase more than 500 Marvel titles (prices I saw were all $1.99, though this could change), and you can download a number of titles free – then flip through pages or zoom in and navigate frame-by-frame.

My favourite app from this very early crop is The Elements for iPad, a dazzling, interactive periodic table offering the 3-D sensation of touching and spinning real-world representations of elements, supplemented by live data (perhaps you’d like to look up the market price for platinum?)

The iBooks store will offer about 60,000 titles at the launch time, compared with more than 400,000 available for Amazon’s Kindle. Yes, flipping the page of an iBook with your finger is a thrilling gesture, those first few hundred times.

As an e-book reader, iPad’s vivid, crisp colour display and pleasing speed are strong pluses. iPad is heavier than the Kindle, though, which some will consider a significant downside for long handheld reading sessions. But I found the reading experience overwhelmingly positive…

I found myself wondering what forms of book this device might make possible, books embedded with video, audio or large high-resolution images – possibilities that could make e-books feel less like frozen digital versions of paper, and more like something infinitely dynamic, and way better than paper altogether…

But it’s the things I never knew it made possible – to be revealed or not in the coming months – that will determine whether I love it.